Saturday, 28 March 2009

Reading for comprehension

-- a ubiquitous insult on the web if someone thinks their crystal clear point is being misinterpreted by an opponent, which reminds me that I tend to read ultra-fast for "story" rather than to slow down and savour prose, or figure out how a writer is achieving their effects, including making me want to find out what happens. These days, I am reading a lot less fiction, and writing a lot more. I think what I need to do next is to spend more time figuring out these effects and constructions so that I can learn from them.

I took about ten days off writing - completely: OU activities and journals and everything prose-related - after handing in the first assignment. I've just re-started, and raced through a couple of weeks' worth of activities in a few days. The course so far: a little disappointing in its interactive component, in that very few of the people on the course list seem to participate at all in the online discussions (which are a bulletin board format, so can be accessed at any time).

I've learned a fair bit already and some of the suggestions trigger ideas immediately, others not so. I am lucky in that the second assignment is one piece of continuous prose, which suits those of us whose shopping lists tend to be longer than the OU standard word limit for single questions. The assignment is essentially to respond to a list of words - concrete items like "a comb" and abstract nouns like "abandonment". I read through the list, thought, "Hmm," went to bed, and couldn't sleep. About 3am I gave up and started writing about the ideas I had.

Abandonment, unlike the previous "child on a city street" assignment, gives me a lot to work with. I am choosing to write in the persona of a woman abandoned as a baby in the classical dramatic circumstances, on the steps of a city centre church. Although her subsequent adoption has gone well, she wonders about all the things most children take for granted: roots, looking like your parents, where her musical talent has come from.

Talking of churches, I was out photographing and drawing one midweek, for its website. The drawings were quite light pencil, and won't work online - they were for ideas and possible use elsewhere. The photos were designed to give me a set of background and incidental images to work with.

I am also learning Greek at the moment, and have an exam in a few weeks. If past history is anything to go by, I shall probably get increasingly nervous about it.

This is not with the OU, it's a real life evening class, and a very good one. We have been studying for nearly two terms. I did some Latin at school, and I've learned Spanish as an adult, so I am not completely new to the idea of complicated grammar. I also keep hearing that Greek is supposedly easier than Latin (not sure why?) and also that this form of Greek, Koine or New Testament Greek, is the easiest there is. There still seems to be rather a lot of it to take in.

On the plus side, although there are five or six thousand different words in the New Testament, ninety percent of the actual occurrences are of a much smaller core of six hundred words, so a lot of modern textbooks concentrate on making sure you are familiar with those.

Doing this has already proved illuminating. Greek, for example, has several different ways of giving an order or suggestion, all of which tend to get flattened into one form of imperative in English, as it can be hard to get across all the nuances in translation.